The success of the Grumman A-6 Intruder led to orders for 180 Grumman EA-6B Prowlers, which were intended from the outset to conduct electronic countermeasures. The distinguishing feature of the Prowler was a fuselage lengthened by five feet so that four crewmembers -- a pilot and three electronic countermeasure operators (ECMS) -- could be accommodated. Weight was increased by about 2,000 pounds, and the engines were uprated from 9,300 pounds static thrust to 11,200 pounds.
The Grumman EA-6B Prowler can conduct a wide variety of missions. The simplest of these is the gathering of signal intelligence by using its equipment passively to determine the nature of hostile electronic systems. The most essential mission of the Prowler is the active electronic countermeasure escort of strike forces.
The Prowlers accompany the strike aircraft to the target area, where they jam enemy radar sites with signals transmitted from pod-mounted emitters. Alternatively, the Prowlers cover a multiple-strike mission by orbiting at a distance from the target area and masking the approach of a strike force by jamming enemy radars.
The versatility of the Grumman EA-6B Prowler was significantly increased when it was armed with AGM-88A HARM missiles, which it can use to destroy enemy radars. Armed EA-6Bs can be used to fly in advance of the main strike force, and engage in SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses).
The dangerous nature of its mission has caused attrition in the EA-6B fleet, at a time when its capabilities are even more in demand. The Prowlers and their crews will rise to the challenge, however, as they have always done in the past.